Eggs are a tasty and nutrient-dense addition to many people’s diets. In fact, so many people eat eggs regularly that the American egg industry reportedly produced 96.9 billion eggs in 2020, and the average American consumed 286 eggs over the course of the year!
You might not be the only one in your household who enjoys scrambled, hard-boiled or poached eggs – your cat might want a few bites as well. While you may be inclined to give your cat a few bites of egg, you might also be wondering if it’s safe to feed your cat eggs.
Can Cats Eat Eggs?
The short answer is: yes, cats can eat eggs.
“Eggs are a very high-quality source of nutrients. Cats can eat them, and they are used as a protein source in some commercial cat foods,” says Dr. Cailin Heinz, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.
That said, while cats can eat eggs, there is much more to consider before making eggs a staple in your cat’s diet.
Can Cats Eat Cooked Eggs?
Cooked eggs should be the only type of egg your cat eats. The yolk should not be runny, and the whites should be completely solid. It doesn’t matter if the eggs are scrambled, fried, hard-boiled or poached, they just need to be cooked.
And if you sneak your cat a bite of cooked eggs from your plate, be sure that those eggs have not been seasoned with onions or garlic, both of which are unsafe for cats to eat. A little bit of salt or pepper should be fine, but don’t overdo it.
You should also avoid feeding your cat eggs that have been cooked in a lot of butter or oil, as they can cause weight gain.
Can Cats Eat Raw Eggs?
While you sometimes hear about bodybuilders or other athletes eating raw eggs, eating an egg without cooking it is generally not recommended, especially if you’re feeding your cat eggs. For an egg to be consumed safely, it needs to be cooked.
“Eggs should always be cooked—for both human and pet consumption—because of the risk of salmonella,” Heinz says. Salmonella is a bacterium sometimes found in raw eggs that can cause food poisoning. If you’re interested in feeding your cat a commercial raw diet with eggs, some studies have shown that freeze-drying eggs and other protein sources can kill a percentage of bacteria.
Heinz also cautions pet parents against feeding their cats raw eggs because raw eggs can cause a biotin deficiency. Biotin is essential for digestion and helps break down fats, carbohydrates and other nutrients. Raw eggs contain a substance that decreases biotin absorption, but this substance is inactivated by properly cooking the eggs.
Can Cats Eat Eggshells?
Eggshells are made of calcium carbonate, a common supplement used as a calcium source. “Calcium carbonate is very commonly used in animal food for all types of animals. So, in theory, yes, your cat can eat eggshells,” Heinz says.
However, Heinz says that giving your cat eggshells as a source of calcium isn’t necessarily the best or easiest way for a cat to get the nutrients it needs. She adds that there’s no reason to feed your cat eggshells if you’re feeding a commercial diet, as those diets will already be nutritionally balanced and include all of the calcium your cat requires.
And if you’re looking to serve your cat a home-cooked diet, you should work with a veterinary nutritionist to make sure you’re adding the proper nutrients in the right amounts for your cat’s health.
“If you’re making a home-cooked diet for your pet and wanted to use eggshells as a source of calcium, you could, but that would require a lot of calculations to ensure you’re giving them the right amount,” Heinz says.
Can Cats Eat Egg Yolks?
Yes, cats can eat egg yolks, the most nutrient-dense part of the egg.
“Egg whites only contain protein,” Heinz says. “It’s a good quality protein, but it doesn’t bring any other nutrients with it. The yolk, however, brings fat, protein and a lot of other nutrients. A whole egg is more nutritionally complete than just the egg white.”
She also says that egg yolks are higher in calories than just egg whites, which should be considered when incorporating eggs into a cat’s diet. “An average egg is 70 to 80 calories. The white accounts for just 17 of those calories. The rest is the yolk,” she says.
How to Feed Cats Eggs
Eggs can be given as an occasional treat for cats on a commercial diet. For example, if you make yourself a plate of eggs for breakfast, feel free to drop a few morsels into your cat’s dish as well.
However, there is a big difference between sharing a couple of bites of your eggs and cooking eggs specifically for your cat.
“If you’re going to feed your cat a whole scrambled egg or you’re going to make them a homemade diet, you’re going to need a lot more than just eggs to meet their nutritional needs,” Heinz says. “If you feed your cat a homemade diet that uses egg as the main protein, you might need more than one egg, but you also need to add extra vitamins and minerals to make sure the meal is nutritionally balanced.”
Heinz adds that if you’re feeding your cat high-quality commercial cat food, there’s no need to add eggs, at least from a nutritional standpoint. “The nutrients in the egg aren’t going to bring anything new,” she says.
Precautions When Feeding Cats Eggs
The most important thing you can do when feeding your cat eggs is to make sure they are fully cooked. Salmonella can be very dangerous, and you don’t want your cat to have to suffer through a bout of food poisoning.
If you choose to feed your cat eggs, be careful not to overdo it. Heinz says that a typical cat should only eat about 250 calories per day, and a single egg has 70 to 80 calories. “Depending on the size of the cat and the size of the egg, a single egg could constitute anywhere from a third to a half of your cat’s suggested calorie intake,” she says.
Additionally, if you’re transitioning from commercial cat food to home-cooked meals, Heinz strongly encourages partnering with a veterinary nutritionist. A nutritionist can formulate a balanced diet for your cat, while also creating a transition plan that will minimize the risk of diarrhea (which can accompany an abrupt diet change).